Nursery School: What You Should Keep In Mind

For most parents, preschool evokes visions of finger paints and storytime, naps and milk and cookie breaks. But in Manhattan the buzz about the preschool application process and the hyper-competitive environment can lead to a lot of anxiety. Big City Moms is here to help! In addition to our vaunted preschool admissions seminars we’ve created this section in order to help you navigate the preschool process without panic. Find everything you need to become your own expert on New York City preschools including how the admissions process works, what to look for in a school, preschool alternatives and even how to handle the first day of school.

If you plan to raise your child in NYC, it is easy to lose perspective of what nursery programs are meant for in the city’s competitive educational environment. Here are some points to keep in mind:

1. Are you planning for public or private school? The primary goal of nursery programs is to socialize children and to expose them to classroom routines. Many early childhood programs in the city are thought of as a shoe-in to prestigious independent schools. Some independent schools have a Nursery through 12th grade program and parents prefer to do it this way to avoid the hassle of yet another application process. If getting your child into a specific school is not a concern, look for a program that offers a safe and fun environment for physical exploration with same aged peers. These programs usually run a few mornings or afternoons a week for a couple of hours and are a lot less costly than a half day, five day a week nursery program. Community centers in your neighborhood are worth checking out for classes and programs. Another option for working parents is daycare centers that have early childhood programs.

2. How old will your child be in September of the year nursery school starts? A few months makes a big difference in the early childhood years. Most nursery programs accept children who will be 2.5 years old in September. Be mindful that rest is a big part of brain development, and your child may not be ready to start school five days a week. Girls also tend to develop faster than boys and can usually handle more hours at school initially. Trust your instincts on what will work for your child. Remember that you are the expert on your kid.

3. What do you want and/or hope your child will get out of formal education? This is a question only you can answer. You know that one of your main responsibilities as a parent is to make sound educational choices for your child. Your main focus should be to make decisions along the way that fit individual learning needs and styles. You will only know what type of learner your child is from experience. Be flexible to ideas you might have about school education. The best thing you can do for your child is to make educational decisions along the way that meet his or her learning needs.

4. Do you agree with most of the school’s philosophy? Do not expect a school to change because you disagree with their mission statement or how a classroom is set-up. Learn as much as you can about the program through conversations with Directors of Admissions and other parents of children already at the school, as well as school tours. A good rule of thumb is to be aware of your initial responses when you enter a school and listen to information. Would you like to be a student there? If not, perhaps your child won’t either.

–Sharon Thomas is an Educational Consultant for an independent school on the Upper East Side. She holds Master degrees in Child Developmental Psychology and Learning Disabilities. In her private practice, Sharon works as an Educational Therapist with students who have varied learning and emotional needs as well as consults with parents on educational decisions. She is also a mother of a toddler. Contact her at for information